[We would like to thank user Jeremy Willinger (@Jeremy8698) for recapping last night's show. -Ed.]
On the penultimate night of what has been a standout run both in terms of playing and permanence, Phish continued to exhibit why they are the best band on the fucking planet.
Before jumping into this review, let us take a trip back to Tuesday: a perfect show that demonstrated how the band can find a pocket and capitalize in the space to create a defining performance. That momentum from the standout show of the year—yeah I’m saying it—was a wave on which band and phans rode together, past Wednesday and into last night’s ripper at YEMSG.
We start with an animated “Buried Alive” at 8:05 PM as Trey launches into the familiar riff that hasn’t been heard since last August. CK5 bathes the room in orange lights and we are off to the races that melt faces.
A quick shift into “The Moma Dance” treats us to a funk infusion as Mike delivers a gloopy and bass-heavy intro. Trey’s voice goes up the rigging to try and harmonize, probably less successfully than he imagines, and he engages the envelope to layer in a 4.0 sound that makes this "Moma" a little more edgy and full-throated. Trey’s energy is already at hose-level and we wrap up after 11 minutes of pleasure.
I don’t know if there can be a bad placement for “46 Days” and this one has muscles. A great tempo that is hovering between patient and frenzied (always with boundless potential) has settled into the band this run, and you can hear it here. There is a fantastic moment, about 8 minutes into the jam, where Trey hits a sustained note that causes the crowd to swell with joy and erupt in a loud cheer. I just love these guys. And just when you think it is close to over, Trey puts a riff into another loop and builds it up three times before returning to the chorus. For just a 10-minute version, we cover a lot of ground.
Speaking of Phish…their creative output has been nothing short of committed. While MSG-attendees already received their exposure to “The Wall” and “Oblivion,” tonight we get a Mike-penned debut song “Back in the Bubble.” There isn’t much here for me personally, aside from Trey’s slightly off harmony, but overall it is a pleasing little tune. We only go 6 minutes into unchartered territory before returning to the familiar with “Bouncing Round the Room."
This “Bouncing” occupies a very pretty space, in an orbit overlapping the Bubble (Bouncing Round the Bubble?) that still distinguishes itself with pep and very tight note-work.
Sensing the vibe flagging just a tad, they launch into “Birds of a Feather,” and this one is precision-sharp. The energy jumps back into the bones when the opening riff hits and this Birds is worth a listen for the flow and the two-minutes around the 5-7 minute mark where Trey unleashes a stunning bridge that infuses the room with delight.
That glee gets amplified when Mike blurts out the “Do Do Ba Ba Ba Do Do” of “Halley’s Comet,” and everyone sings along about Cadillac Rainbows and Lots of Spaghetti! In true Trey-fashion, and in a callback to other songs this run that mention or allude to cities and New York, he changes the lyrics to the “central part of NYC.” Cute and so quintessentially Phish it makes my face ache from smiling.
I hear the signal for “Roggae” from Trey to the band and they smooth into this welcomed breather, which gives everyone time to collect themselves and consider the poignant lyrics. There is also a nice Wizard of Oz tease here. This is tonight’s “Frankie Says,” moment where it isn’t lost on anyone that what we have here is an extraordinarily lucky opportunity to enjoy a foursome that is as gratifying and productive today as any point in their history. As I said before, best band on the [expletive] planet.
This cool-down is brief because we get a hot-blooded “Antelope” that comes galloping through the garden to close out the set. Trey adds a nice little flourish over the intro and there is a great surge through the crowd right before the “Rye-Rye-Rocco” section. This is a perfectly placed heater of a ‘Lope that gets everyone energized while also acting as a testament to the band’s masterful ability to craft sets and experiences that resonate and maintain connectivity between them and us.
Lights up, set-break time. Have a cup of [whatever] and catch your breath.
The second set kicks into high gear immediately as they open with “Mike’s Song” featuring a Trey-infused 80’s metal edge that offers a particular sharpness. They build into the jam off a four-note base that allows them to expand on the theme. What is most notable is that this Mike’s features the rare “Second Jam” which hasn’t graced our ears since Nashville 2015, if I am not mistaken. If I am, I know someone will correct me in the comments. This "Mike’s" deserves repeat listening and credit to Page for his spacey work. At 23 minutes-long, there is a lot to appreciate, especially the peaky mid-section and ferocious second jam.
We are treated to a gritty “Sand” with Page layering in nice funk effects and a call and answer portion that doesn’t linger before Phish catapults us into a “Crosseyed and Painless” that threatens to burn down MSG. This is a medium monster-sized C&P, which also features the recent MSG-trend of Fishman forgetting lyrics in the middle of the tune. Trey pushes the jam and fills in the empty spaces with machine-gun sprays of notes and Fishman drives the tempo to centrifugal levels.
Fishman deftly moves them back into a more settled groove so Trey can slow down and go into “A Life Beyond a Dream.” This is a solid version and Trey massages as much soul as he can out of it as they build up to a studied and meaningful conclusion.
Since this run has been marked by the relative absence of Gamehendge related songs and rarities, it is a special treat to get “The Lizards” here. It is also the first time it has been played this year. This Lizards glides in on Page’s ivories, missteps slightly on an odd harmony by Trey, and then gets spicy as the Chairman of the Boards layers in a jazzy overtone.
It is an uncanny experience listening to Trey’s senior thesis and knowing that there are people in the audience who heard this song years ago, got married, had kids who went to college/grad school and wrote their own thesis’, and are still here jamming. Because it bears repeating: best band ever.
Another first time this year tune, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” closes out the second set with an emotional singalong and gorgeous playing.
It is only the briefest of pauses before we get a one-two punch of awesomeness for the encore. The “Weekapaug Groove” everyone knew was coming finally makes an appearance after a slow and funky bridge that Mike permeates with bass slaps. Once it kicks off, this ‘Paug is a snowball rolling down the hill, building towards its inevitably fun conclusion.
But wait, there’s more! I thought we might be getting a “Hood” but when the opening notes of “Fluffhead” make their way to my eardrums it all makes sense (as these things tend to do). Of course there is the requisite big cheer on the “Fluff went to New York” lyric and Page spreads a nice coating of extra mustard on this sandwich. Page like sandwiches.
The show concludes a little past 11:30 PM and we are all happier for having been here. This run has been a showcase of what happens when Phish has the luxury of consistency: more wherewithal to dexterously fashion shows that allow them to fully express their talents. While this was on full display Tuesday, the wind is still at their back (so put your wingsuit on) and we are all soaring high.
I hope mini-tours like these also portend a new way to think about residencies and seasons. I would love to see bands use MSG for indoor summer residencies more often, and there is little reason to think Phish with their close relationship to James Dolan and the MSG network couldn’t be the torch-bearers for a new model.
So, while I can say this now it will also be as true next year as it will be today: What a night, what a run, what a band.
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